M. and T. Newhouse of Buena Park asked for reader input on the refinishing of bathroom fixtures, and we got mixed reactions.
M.B. of Woodland Hills is a satisfied customer: "I had our tub and the ceramic tile around the three sides of the tub done two years ago, and it still looks as new as the day it was done. I spent almost a year calling various places and getting information. I learned to stay away from epoxy and was told a polyurethane finish was the best. I was also told that R.M. Baker in North Hollywood is the best. It took them two days to complete the job and then you let it dry for about 10 days (before using it). I was told that with care it would last as long as a new tub and that each time you use the tub or shower you should wipe it down.
"If the tub needs cleaning, use soap and water (not cleansers). If a stain or ring should persist, use a soft cloth and Bon Ami--no other scouring powder. . . ."
Mrs. J.M. of Temecula is a dissatisfied customer: "To M. and T. Newhouse regarding the refinishing of their tub. I can only say 'Don't.'
"We contracted with one of the well-advertised companies (no company mentioned) to refinish our vanity top, and the results were:
"The first refinish was full of dirt and orange peel.
"When the finish was buffed out, everything in our bathroom and adjoining den was covered or permeated with a sticky dust.
"The second try, which produced equally poor results, was done in the backyard.
"Upon our insistence, the third try was done in the shop. This finish was not great, but satisfactory. The finish did mark, stain and scratch easily even though I kept it waxed (the only way it looked good). I would never use this process again."
An unsigned card from a construction company in Canoga Park said: "I had two tubs refinished--one of my own. It does look like new if the person doing the work cares about the job. It's also good if you are selling the house, but it's no good for your own home, because it chips off and water gets under and chips even more. It starts around the drain first. I won't do it to any tubs again."
G.W.D. wrote from Woodland Hills that she dealt directly with a firm called Cermaglaze, and she seems satisfied: "There was one workman here Tuesday morning for five hours (covering everything up and taping it in place and sanding the tub). It was really a clean process all the way through." Two days later another workman came to spray on the glaze.
My conclusion from the reader responses is that you should check every available source for references on the company you select. Find out how long the company has been doing this kind of work. Ask to speak to customers they've served. Check the Better Business Bureau to see if they've had complaints about the company of your choice. Ask for written bids for comparison, and see which company is willing to give you some kind of a guarantee on their work.
Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.